New research

Nuclear power additions 'need to quadruple' to hit climate goals, IEA says

  • 31 Jan 2015, 14:50
  • Simon Evans

The world needs to quadruple the rate it is adding nuclear power capacity to the grid by the 2020s if it is to meet climate targets, according to a new report from thinktank the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The  2015 technology roadmap for nuclear energy, published jointly with the Nuclear Energy Agency, suggests nuclear power capacity needs to more than double by 2050 as part of cost-effective efforts to limit warming to two degrees.

Carbon Brief takes you through the roadmap's findings and its recommendations for securing a nuclear contribution to avoiding dangerous climate change.

Contributing to climate goals

The IEA takes an all-of-the-above approach to cutting emissions. Its executive director Maria van der Hoeven says all low-carbon energy sources, including nuclear, will be required for the "energy revolution" we need to meet climate goals.

Nuclear-free scenarios that successfully combat climate change have been  developed by other organisations, but they would require extremely ambitious efforts across areas including energy efficiency, land-use change and diets that not all experts believe to be achievable.

So to what extent might emissions be reduced by ramping up nuclear power, according to the IEA? Under its two degrees scenario, it thinks nuclear power capacity will need to more than double by 2050, to 930 gigawatts. That's significantly less optimistic than the  IEA's 2010 nuclear roadmap, which put 2050 nuclear capacity at 1,200 gigawatts.

Most additional capacity will be in China (the lilac area in the chart below). Other growth areas include Russia, India and the UK, which has "one of the most ambitious newbuild programmes" in the OECD group of wealthier nations, according to the IEA. These plans include the high-profile Hinkley Point C plant in Somerset, among others.

Credit:  IEA 2015 technology roadmap for nuclear energy


Met Office puts high odds on the next few years being warmer than 2014

  • 30 Jan 2015, 14:20
  • Roz Pidcock

Expect to see more global temperature records tumble over the next few years, suggests the Met Office's new forecast. Global average surface temperatures during 2015 to 2019 are expected to stay high, with a good chance of beating 2014 for the hottest year on record.

Every year the Met Office releases what's called a "decadal forecast". It's designed to give us an idea of what we can expect in the next few years.

It's new forecast, released online this week, says global temperature out to 2019 is expected to be in the range of 0.18 and 0.46 degrees Celsius above the long-term average.

This means we're likely to see the mercury climb higher than in 2014, which saw a global temperature of 0.26 degrees Celsius above the long-term average.

Decadal forecasts

Decadal forecasts, also known as "near-term" forecasts, take into account natural fluctuations in the climate, as well as human influences.

The Met Office predicts global temperature over the next five years will be between 0.18 and 0.46 degrees above the 1981-2010 average. That's 0.76 to 1.04 degrees above pre-industrial temperature.

The graph below shows the new Met Office forecast (blue shading) and real-world surface temperatures (black line), including the most recent data for 2014.

Met Office Decadal 2015Observed global surface temperature (black line) and Met Office decadal forecast for 2015-2019 (blue shading) relative to 1981-2010. Previous predictions are shown in red. 22 model simulations from CMIP5 that have not been initialised with current observations are shown in green. Source: Met Office decadal forecast  2015-2019

The new forecast slightly edges up global temperatures expected over the next few years, compared to last year's forecast for 2014 to 2018. That one predicted global temperatures between 0.18 and 0.43 above the long-term average. But the difference is very small.


New US poll shows gap between scientists, the public, and politicians on climate change

  • 30 Jan 2015, 12:30
  • Mat Hope

The US Congress  set up a showdown with the Barack Obama yesterday over the approval of the  controversial Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.

Most members of Congress argue it's necessary for the country's energy security. The president is concerned about the impact that extracting, transporting, and burning the oil could have on climate change.

New polling data shows the vast majority of the US's scientists and growing numbers of the public share the president's concern about how human activity may impact climate change. It suggests that the views of politicians are increasingly at odds with the country's climate scientists.

Causes of climate change

Growing numbers of US adults attribute climate change to human activities, new data from the  Pew Research Centre shows. But there's a big discrepancy between the public, politicians, and scientists' views on climate change.

Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 11.04.43.png
Sources: Public and scientists,  Pew Research Centre. Congress, the  Centre for American Progress. Graph by Carbon Brief.